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Five impactful sustainability initiatives for a better business

This Earth Day consider introducing sustainability initiatives to help your business become more environmentally sound. Sustainability can be reached through optimising resource networks, working with sustainable suppliers and tapping into renewable energy resources. 

In this article, we will read about sustainability in the workplace:

  • What is a sustainable business
  • Why is sustainability important to a business
  • 5 sustainability initiatives for businesses
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Sustainability in the workplace

This section explores what sustainability initiatives mean for your business as well as why they are important. It provides insight on the UK government’s strategy when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

What is a sustainable business?

A sustainable business consciously avoids negatively impacting the environment, communities and society. For example, a sustainable business uses environmental resources in a way that preserves them for future generations. A sustainable business might also look at the longevity of its social resources. This can be achieved through strategies that improve employee wellbeing and retention.

Why is sustainability important to business?

The United Nations (UN) considers environmental conservation, economic development and social sustainability to be the biggest challenges faced by humanity in the long term. According to the UN’s Brundtland report, the environmental conversation is the most important challenge as it involves preserving and maintaining the ecosystems and resources that make the Earth healthy and stable. Without this stability, businesses may find their supply chains disrupted by changing climates and may face challenges in resource availability. With 25% of customers willing to pay more for sustainable products, businesses may also benefit profit-wise from turning to sustainable practices. 

Governments also encourage and sometimes enforce the reduction of CO2 emissions. The current strategy set out by the UK government aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach what’s known as ‘net-zero’ before 2050. Net-zero means reducing emissions to a point where no carbon dioxide is added to the environment. Pressure is also coming from the UK government to improve the sustainability of business supply chains


Five sustainability initiatives for your business

Organisations can help preserve the environment by improving the sustainability of their supply chains, tracking and managing their carbon footprint, reducing non-renewable material consumption and much more. In this section, we will look at how businesses can align their strategies with sustainable business practices. As each business has its unique supply chain and business strategy, they will be required to tailor each green initiative to their specific sustainability challenges. Below are some key green initiatives that can help businesses meet their environmental targets.

1. Conducting an energy efficiency audit

One of the first steps towards sustainability is to conduct an energy efficiency audit. Energy audits are a great first initiative as they help create a picture of how much energy your company is using. Not only does this help businesses to identify areas where they can reduce energy consumption, but it can also help them to cut down on costs.

One of the first steps of the energy efficiency audit is to identify existing challenges or feedback from employees. Perhaps they are working in a draughty office space where heat escapes or someone has the thermostat on too high throughout the day.

Consider how corporate buildings use energy in a problematic way. Challenging areas may include appliances that use a lot of energy, how well-insulated the building is and thermostat usage. Businesses can also use this type of audit to identify where they might be able to introduce renewable energy sources, therefore cutting out the need for fossil fuels. 

2. Delivering an environmental audit

Businesses can also conduct an environmental audit alongside their energy efficiency audit. This type of audit involves looking at ways your business can improve its use of environmental resources. Environmental audits can involve conducting site inspections, recording levels of emissions and pollutants released during production processes. Environmental audits typically focus on the following:

  • The handling of chemicals, solvents, gas and pollutants
  • Waste disposal
  • Materials storage
  • Noise pollution
  • Employee hygiene
  • Potential hazards and risks

 When conducting an environmental audit, consider the following key actions:

  • Review current environmental policies, identifying problem areas
  • Create checklists for environmental targets the business needs to meet
  • Decide who is going to conduct the audit (externally or internally)
  • Identify and record key findings
  • Create an action plan in response to key findings and identified problem areas
  • Implement and deliver the action plan

3. Improving the supply chain

Business supply chains can have negative consequences for the environment. This could be through using non-renewable energy in supply chain processes. Or it could involve creating products from non-recyclable products. Certain suppliers might harm the environment due to particular manufacturing processes.

Many businesses have sought to create a regenerative supply chain in order to resolve the above issues. Regenerative supply chains involve minimising waste creation, while maximising the effectiveness of resource use.

Regenerative supply chains typically involve reusing, sharing and recycling raw materials. They also include refurbishing customer products and putting them back on the market.

By keeping resources in a loop of reuse, regenerative supply chains help to reduce a business’s consumption of natural resources. Some strategies that companies are taking to create a regenerative supply chain include:

  • Restoring forests to pre-industrial levels
  • Using plastic waste to create new products
  • Tracking carbon emissions throughout the supply chain
  • Collaborating with carbon-neutral or carbon-negative suppliers

4. Reducing single-use plastics in the workplace

Businesses can become more sustainable with the simple initiative of reducing single-use plastics. The name ‘single-use’ comes from the fact that these plastics are non-recyclable. Single-use plastics gradually turn into microplastics over time, which can pollute the environment and upset the balance of natural ecosystems.

Single-use plastics are often present in places like business canteens. They include coffee lids, water cups and plastic cutlery. Organisations can help to reduce single-use plastic consumption by:

  • Encouraging employees to bring their reusable mugs to work
  • Promoting the use of refillable water bottles
  • Replacing rubbish bins with recycling collection points
  • Organising a local clean-up or beach clean
  • Providing perks and incentives to employees who reduce their single-use plastic consumption
  • Carrying out a waste audit to find out how much waste is being created

While some businesses might still supply single-use plastics to their employees, the selling and supplying of some single-use plastics is currently banned in the UK. 

According to the UK government, companies can’t sell polystyrene food and drink containers, drink stirrers, balloon sticks and cutlery. The selling and supplying of single-use plastics like plates, straws and cotton buds is restricted.

5. Adopting Corporate Responsibility Initiatives (CRI)

By promoting environmental and social responsibility, businesses can help to build trust with employees and customers alike. Adopting CRIs can include a wide variety of positive actions, including:

  • Developing policies that are beneficial to the environment
  • Investing in renewable energy tech
  • Donating funds to environmental charities
  • Strategically partnering with conservation groups and charities
  • Making environmentally conscious investments
  • Buying and investing in local materials to cut back on fuel usage
  • Sourcing sustainable materials for production
  • Optimising distribution networks so they are more fuel-efficient

Becoming a sustainable company means approaching every part of your business strategy with scrutiny. It involves conducting audits to assess the efficiency of supply chains, resource networks and energy consumption. By looking at long-term solutions such as new renewal technology products on the market, as well as partnering with conservation groups, businesses can help preserve the natural environment for future generations to come. By becoming conscious of where and how materials are produced, organisations can work to ensure they are sustainable in the long term. Finally, adopting sustainability initiatives also means working towards reaching the UK government’s net-zero goals.

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